Thesis Thursday: The Lion Couchant

Thesis Thursday is an architectural series showcasing the work produced by the UCT M.Arch (prof) graduates of 2013. These projects tackle a number of issues in vast contexts spread throughout Cape Town, ranging from diminutive park follies to massive desalination plants. M.Arch theses, on one hand; are infamous for exhibiting ideas that simply serve as provocative visions of infinite possibilities. On the other hand, they display imaginative approaches to somewhat enigmatic urban/social issues …… You decide.


Charlton Botha

This dissertation is focused on the natural and cultural landscape of the ‘Lion Mountain’, comprising of Signal Hill and Lion’s Head. It is rooted in the theoretical constructs of a phenomenological approach to Landscape of Memory exercised through contemporary methods for architectural mapping. It establishes a pretext to the design dissertation, in so far as to provide tools of engagement and interpretation of the study area.

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The project challenges the customs of both historical narrative and active natural landscape as inherently separate archetypes and proposes the establishment of a mutual environment upon which key significant elements of the narrative could be developed as a series of spatial episodes with unique supporting program.

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Landscape of Memory – Past:

The first section of the dissertation reflects on the history of the study area, related specifically to significant moments of human influence. Landscape phenomenology and mapping are employed as tools of interpretation that are utilized in order to draw from both the physical and temporal contexts.


Reading beyond Site – Present:

A position was taken to delineate which of the various adaptations of cultural and historical value draw primary focus for the purpose of realizing an architectural idea. The process of reading the history and interpreting the present state of the landscape sets up an opportunity for bringing together multiple strategies for development. Using the complex assembly of mapped data; the design approach brings together a challenging ambiguous relationship of landscape and built form.

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Design Agenda – Future:

The notion of curating the vast landscape with each of the related cultural nodes, becomes further focused through the design of the summit – the ‘Acropolis’ if you will. The organization of program and space is ideated as a sequence of events, rather than simply an abstraction of built form – which delineates a careful assembly of components that mediate the user experience.

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These components are intentionally designed to capture the physical attributes of sensual, qualitative engagement with nature as is implied by the choice of materials and modes of construction.

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These components are:

Path – gestures that gradually meander between spaces in the site.

Screen –  designed to define limit and direct movement between various episodes on the summit site, whilst simultaneously acting as enclosure and protection

Terrace – a series of terraces located at various points on the site are intended to capture specific experiences.

Tower –  the narrative history of the signaling mast was identified as a significant part of communication within military, maritime and public life.

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